The Verdict on the Purple Tomato

September 11, 2012 | By | Comments (5)
The purple tomato, 'Indigo Rose'

Photographs by Johanna Silver

Just when we thought we were at a tomato dead-end out here (not really—that’ll never happen), along comes ‘Indigo Rose’. Named after a burlesque dancer? Nope, it’s the color. Oregon State University released the much anticipated purple tomato this year…anticipated as much as a vintage of wine. I mean, this baby even has her own 700-word press release.

‘Indigo Rose’ isn’t purple-ish. It’s dark purple. And we’re not talking GMO Franken-fruit. We’re talking good, old-fashioned, open-pollinated breeding. The reason for the showy color: anthocyanin, a dark colored antioxidant with potentially powerful health benefits.

My friends in Salem, Oregon at Minto Island Growers (our favorite farmers, of food truck fame) are growing a field of them. Stunning. The actual leaves are darker purple. And the fruit…oh, the fruit. It’s as dark as eggplant. And it gets red on the bottom when it’s ripe. It’s gorgeous.

But…the bad news…it’s supposed to taste just like a “regular tomato,” as anthocyanins are tasteless. There’s no nice way of saying this, Indigo: You lacked flavor. But you sure are pretty. So fingers crossed that some deliciousness gets bred back in. Otherwise we’ll definitely be planting ‘Indigo Rose’ next year but only as an ornamental.


  1. The Hammock Tree, Perfected – Westphoria | A blog by Sunset

    […] farmers are always innovating. Hydroponics, vertical farms, the purple tomato—you name it, they’ve green-thumbed it. They even innovate accidentally, like by raising a […]

    October 11, 2012 at 6:00 am
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    September 13, 2012 at 9:26 am
  3. mcauliflower

    funny- I had these as a gift- and also found myself not favoring them. They just have less sugar compared to the super sweet cherry tomatoes that seem to rule the tomato kingdom at times.

    It was interesting seeing how the color developed: purple came on very early in the season, with red being last to make it the final black.

    Also- our leaves were curly too!

    September 12, 2012 at 9:35 pm
  4. Johanna Silver

    They are SO beautiful. Believe me, I was really looking forward to the variety, and was so disappointed when I ate them. I’m starting to hear murmers of the same result from other farmers/gardeners growing them. No, it’s not you. And PS — when in doubt, you can always blame your mistakes on the weather. That’s what I do.

    September 12, 2012 at 2:26 pm
  5. Judith Auerbach

    I’m so glad I read your review of Indigo Rose. The tomatoes are beautiful, they look like large jewels but our first taste was so disappointing, no taste at all! Now I know it was not just my gardening that did it, thank you.

    September 12, 2012 at 2:24 pm

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